No. 2 Duke beats No. 5 Kentucky, 69-61

Tricia Liston had some good looks at the basket, but the Duke

senior guard just mostly used her height and quickness to score

easy layups no matter who was on her.

Those opportunities seemed to be there all day for the Blue

Devils against Kentucky.

Liston scored a season-high 28 points to help No. 2 Duke beat

the fifth-ranked Wildcats 69-61 before 23,706 fans at Rupp Arena on

Sunday.

Five days after defending champion and No. 1 Connecticut soundly

dealt the Blue Devils their first loss, they used their size and

length to hand the Wildcats their first defeat before the largest

crowd to see a women’s game in Kentucky along with the biggest Duke

has ever played in front of.

The 6-foot-1 Liston thrived on mismatches to shoot 10 of 19 from

the field, including two 3-pointers, falling a point short of her

career best. Duke’s 6-3 center, Elizabeth Williams, was 6 of 10 to

chip in 17 points and had eight rebounds.

The Blue Devils (12-1) stifled Kentucky (11-1) around the

basket, limiting the Wildcats to 25-of-75 shooting (33 percent) and

3 of 15 from long range. Poor free throw shooting also doomed

Kentucky, which made a season-worst 8 of 19 from the line (42

percent).

Janee Thompson had 12 second-half points to lead Kentucky and

helped rally the Wildcats to 59-55 with 6:07 remaining. Liston

answered with consecutive layups to stretch Duke’s lead back to

eight and provide a safe cushion as the Blue Devils won their

second in a row.

”We just stayed more focused on what we needed to do, taking

care of the ball and getting stops on defense, rather than worrying

about it getting too tight,” Liston said. ”We needed to make sure

not to get involved with the crowd and everything else that was

going on. We did a really good job of staying poised and staying

with our game plan.”

Added Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: ”Tricia’s leadership was

incredible. She’s a very, very smart basketball player with a lot

of experience. She was huge for us in terms of getting the team

together and making things happen.”

Duke shot 26 of 59 (44 percent), made 15 of 18 free throws and

outrebounded Kentucky 46-42. The Blue Devils also outscored the

Wildcats 40-34 in the paint.

Samarie Walker and Bria Goss had eight points for Kentucky.

”They outworked us today and I think that’s what happens in

games with two really good teams going at it,” Wildcats coach

Matthew Mitchell said. ”They were just a team that worked harder.

Not that our team didn’t work hard, I just think Duke worked

harder. You give them credit. They did a nice job.”

The game began in a charged atmosphere with the Wildcats playing

before a crowd four times their season average at nearby Memorial

Coliseum. The question was whether students and faculty would help

break the state record of 22,152 set in 2010 when Kentucky played

at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.

Duke entered its third game in a week after blowing out Albany

on Thursday. There have been few easy opponents for the Blue

Devils, particularly this month with Kentucky representing their

fourth ranked foe in five games.

That stretch thoroughly prepared a Duke squad that was no

stranger to 23,000-seat Rupp, losing here to Kentucky two years ago

as the Wildcats’ annual appearance resumed after a brief hiatus.

And in building a 36-24 halftime lead, the Blue Devils certainly

weren’t in awe of the massive building, the partisan crowd or

Kentucky’s trademark pressure defense.

With size advantages at many positions including Williams having

a two-inch edge over Walker – who went scoreless in the first half

– Duke simply exploited it on both ends. Frequent layups helped the

Blue Devils shoot 14 of 29 from the field including seven straight

baskets during one stretch.

”One thing that we talked about was being able to control the

tempo this game, knowing they were a pressing team,” Williams

said. ”We were aware of their pressure and overall we did a pretty

good job.”

Duke’s length also made it difficult for Kentucky to pass and

shoot against the zone. The Wildcats began 0 for 5 en route to 10

of 35 for the half, often finding hands in front of them as they

struggled to work the ball inside and around the perimeter, keeping

them from spotting up from long range.